Hosty vs. Carter rejected

Hosty vs. Carter, a case recently rejected by the Supreme Court for appeal, can affect college and university newspapers and students around the country.

Journalism students from the Governors State University in Illinois sued the university, specifically Dean Patricia Carter, for stopping their newspaper, The Innovator; from being printed due to articles they wrote criticizing the administration. In 2005, courts ruled in favor of the university, stating that now The Innovator writers must submit the paper to the administration before being printed.

The Hosty decision currently affects colleges and universities in Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin, but could potentially be trouble for other states.

“It could cause a ripple effect,” said Mike Hiestand, attorney and legal consultant for Student Press Law Center, said. “You now have this case that other judges can point to.”

California is in the 9th Circuit, which, as of yet, has not discussed implementing the Hosty decision in colleges and universities. Hiestand says other circuits have discussed it and rejected it, keeping the First Amendment protection for campus newspapers.

The 1988 Supreme Court case Hazelwood has been the standard for high school papers since the ruling. High school newspapers have to submit their articles for proofreading before being published, so the officials can approve of the content. Now with Hosty, colleges are facing the same censorship.

“I’m now stunned the high school standard is being applied to adult students in a college setting,” Hiestand said. “It’s very scary.”

Chuck Connolly, representative of Governors State University declined to comment, stating that the university had nothing to say regarding Hosty v. Carter.
Hiestand said he thinks the reason the courts ruled for the university in the Hosty case was because of what the students were asking for.

“One thing that didn’t help their case was that the students were asking for a considerable [chunk] of change,” Hiestand said. “It was a lot of money; they weren’t just suing for infringement on their rights. In some ways, I’m sure, that’s why the attorney general defended the university.”

If the 9th circuit does decide to apply the Hosty decision to California colleges and universities, Skyline would be affected. The Skyline View would have to submit their paper to the administration before being published.

Hiestand says there are boundaries to what college students can write in the newspaper but sometimes those boundaries should be crossed.

“College students have never been able to write whatever they wanted,” Hiestand said. “There are certain boundaries that are definitely crossed. Students ought to be engaged to talk about something that could piss people off.”

Before 1988’s Hazelwood decision, there was the Tinker case. Tinker gave college students freedom of speech as long as it was not disrupting normal school activity or invading a person’s rights. The Tinker case still applies but only to college newspapers that are completely independent from the school, which the majority of the newspapers are not. 

People need places to voice their opinions, to speak openly on topics that interest them.

“If you can’t speak freely on a college level, where can you?” Hiestand said.